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Smartphones in Research & Engineering

Something we hadn't quite anticipated when we developed Physics Toolbox was that its popularity among researchers, engineers, and other curious adults would surpass the use by secondary and higher education communities. Or, at least this is what data suggests from the voluntary survey we offer to anyone who contacts us. What we are excited about is that the very same tool that students use in high school might still be relevant and useful by the stage in which they enter the workforce.

Smartphones as research tools is not unprecedented. As early as 2010, an editorial in Nature Methods described their potential. A recent post from Elsevier provides a sample listing of articles from researchers who used smartphones to study the environment, health, space, smart cities and society, and technical subjects.

To pique your interest about what kinds of things people are using Physics Toolbox for, check out some of the articles below:

Biomechanics and Robotics: Accelerometers are helpful in determining how a body reacts to a push. The "recovery" from a push is complex, and involves the body's ability to re-calibrate and balance. Such studies are important for robotics as well as for elderly who are more prone to deadly falls.

Chemical Reactions: For chemical reactions or changes in solutions that might influence opacity, light intensity observed through or reflected back from the solution can provide a measure of how far the reaction has gone. While other methods of enzyme activity have historically relied on fluorescence, this method requires only a light source and a light meter.

Green Technology: Accelerometers are useful in determining the efficiency of moving vehicles, be they public buses, solar cars, or bicycles. However, one potential problem with green technology is that the use of alternative fuels leads to quieter (or no) engines, which can be dangerous for pedestrians. Some potential solutions include the use of false engine noises and sound intensity testing with sound meters to see if pedestrians can be primed to avoid dangerous encounters with the vehicles.

Check out these student research projects:


Modern Physics: Optical gyroscopes take advantage of relativist effects: the relationship between a coil of optical fiber spinning in space and the speed of light travelling through it (which remains constant). Mechanical smartphone gyroscopes can be used to measure the physical rotation of the coil.

Social Behavior: How humans move in rhythm to one another in social gatherings with music correlates to the song's popularity.

Supporting research and industry is one of Vieyra Software's goals for our Physics Toolbox apps. If you are an educator or researcher, please let us know what we can do to support your work!

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